The Odd Truth, May 20, 2004

The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by's Brian Bernbaum.

Boa Causes Blackout

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - A boa constrictor triggered a 15-minute nationwide blackout when it slithered into a generator at a major hydroelectric plant, officials said Wednesday.

The boa was electrocuted Tuesday after entering El Cajon, a plant that supplies 60 percent of Honduras' electricity.

"The snake was responsible for leaving the country in darkness," said Rosario Castillo, president of the National Electric Energy Company.

"The reptile got itself into the area that supplies two enormous generation units. It was electrocuted, causing a short-circuit that shut off the emergency system," Castillo said.

Power outages are common in Honduras. A failure at the same hydroelectric dam left the entire nation without power for three hours in September.

High-Tech Garage Door Jammer

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - The Air Force's new $5.5 million two-way radio system has an added feature - it also jams garage doors.

During testing last week of the system at the Eglin base, homeowners in Niceville, Valparaiso and the Crestview areas reported that their garage door openers failed to work.

Air Force officials said Tuesday the contractor, Motorola Inc., will try to minimize the problem. Technicians will run the system at slightly different frequencies from those used by garage door openers when another test is conducted Friday through Monday.

Military leaders were understanding. "I want my garage door opener to work, too," said Col. Russell F. Miller, commander of the 96th Communication Group.

Lauren Van Wazer, a spokeswoman for the Federal Communication Commission, said if the Air Force has been running the system within its licensed frequencies - and the Air Force said it has - then users of garage door openers may have to change theirs.

'Dr. Love's Super Baby Making Show'

SINGAPORE - The prize: $100,000 - and a baby. Ten couples from around the world could compete in a reality TV show in Singapore to see who can procreate first, the city-state's self-styled sex guru said Thursday.

"We've not started the recruitment, but people have heard about it," said Wei Siang Yu. "The main prize is the baby, of course."

Wei said he hopes the show, "Dr. Love's Super Baby Making Show," will be beamed across the world and shown locally by MediaCorp, the government-owned national broadcaster, later this year.

Keith Cheong, an executive with the marketing and distribution department of MediaCorp Studios, confirmed that the company is discussing producing the reality show with Wei. But details of the deal are yet to be finalized, he said.

"I don't think there will be anything pornographic," Wei said when asked about screening in notoriously censor-happy Singapore, where the government constantly urges citizens to start families to reverse an aging population trend.

Nine foreign couples and a Singaporean couple will take part, he said. They will lead their normal daily lives of work and play, but will have their movements closely monitored. The winning couple will be the first to test positive with a pregnancy test kit, Wei said.

"It's about conception, not about birth," he added.

A worldwide survey last year by condom maker Durex showed that Singaporean couples had sex on average just 96 times in 2003 - making them the least sexually active respondents among the developed countries surveyed.

Financial Hanky Panky?

NEW YORK - An insurance company executive is claiming some financial hanky-panky occurred during a visit to an upscale strip club that left him out $28,000.

Mitchell Blaser, 54, filed a lawsuit Wednesday claiming he was stripped of the money through bogus credit card charges after a night out with two friends at the Manhattan topless club Scores.

A Scores spokesman denied the accusation, saying Blaser was spending "like a rock star" and the club's paperwork proves it. The tab for the evening included $16,000 for five bottles of top-of-the-line Champagne and $7,000 for lap dances.

Blaser, CFO for the American division of Swiss Reinsurance Co., said when he complained that the bill was wrong, club employees told him to sign or he would not get his credit card back.

Scores spokesman Lonnie Hanover said club employees checked with American Express several times during the night while Blaser was there to make sure that his line of credit permitted the kind of spending he was doing.

Hanover said American Express investigated Blaser's complaints in January. He said the credit card company sent Scores a letter dated Jan. 22 confirming that the charges were legitimate.

Steve Dishart, a spokesman for Swiss Reinsurance, one of the world's largest insurers, said he couldn't comment because Blaser's lawsuit involves "a personal dispute."

Cop Gets Her Man, Four Years Later

NEW YORK - It took four years, but Police Officer Nicol De La Rosa finally got her man.

De La Rosa, 22, was on patrol Friday afternoon with her partner when they got a call to check out a suspicious person hanging around a Broadway building in the Theater District.

As the two approached, De La Rosa recognized the suspect as the man who demanded her jewelry as the then-18-year-old civilian ate in a McDonald's in Chinatown on May 25, 2000.

At the time, Steven Santos, 39, allegedly went up to De La Rosa and threatened, "Give me the jewelry or I will hurt you real bad."

Santos had been identified in police photos, but he remained free until De La Rosa nabbed him.

Santos allegedly put up a struggle as De La Rosa and her partner Marykate Donohue, both rookies, tried to cuff him. Additional officers were called to the scene and, after a brief struggle, Santos was taken into custody.

He was arrested on charges including robbery, assault and resisting arrest.

Man Sues Over Shy Bladder Syndrome

ATLANTA - A man who says he was fired by Caterpillar Inc. because he wasn't able to urinate for a drug test sued the equipment giant, alleging discrimination.

The plaintiff said Wednesday he suffers from paruresis, more commonly known as shy bladder syndrome, and was physically unable to urinate into a specimen cup, despite having drunk 1.2 liters of water and being given three hours to complete the task.

Tom Smith, a 55-year-old assembly line worker, was suspended by Caterpillar a day after the aborted test in November, and dismissed on Dec. 5.

"This is supposed to be a country where losing a job for a disorder like that shouldn't be a problem," said Smith, who worked at the company's Griffin plant more than three years. "It's just a matter of simple justice."

Smith contends Caterpillar violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and that companies should offer alternate drug testing methods such as hair or blood tests. He wants his job back and unspecified monetary damages.

Smith's lawsuit claims he ultimately was able to provide a urine sample during an exam by a doctor appointed by Caterpillar, but the company refused to test the sample because he failed to produce it within the allotted three-hour period.

Smith passed an independent hair drug test he paid for himself before he was fired, but Caterpillar required him to pass the urine test.

"We believe that our drug testing policy does not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, and we intend to defend against the allegations," said spokeswoman Linda Fairbanks, who declined further comment.

As much as 7 percent of the general population has said in surveys they have trouble using the bathroom away from home, said Soifer, an associate professor of social work at the University of Maryland in Baltimore.

Boy Punches Alligator

DELTONA, Fla. - An alligator dragged a 12-year-old swimmer underwater in a lake, but the boy punched the reptile and swam safely to shore.

Malcolm Locke was treated for cuts and scrapes that were not considered life threatening.

He was bit while swimming Wednesday in Lake Diana, near his grandmother's house just north of Orlando.

He saw the alligator's tail first, he said. "It was coming right at me," he told NBC's "Today" show Thursday.

Malcolm, who is 5 feet, 4 inches tall, tried to swim away, but the alligator, which was 4 to 6 feet long, attacked his head and pulled him under water, officials said.

"It took a bite out of my head and a big chunk out of my ear," Malcolm said.

He punched the alligator, and "it just squirmed away," he said. He swam to shore, and a neighbor drove him to a hospital.

A trapper was sent to the lake to remove the alligator.

The boy's mother, Misty Warren, said the family has seen alligators in the area before, but none had ever bothered them.

The best thing to do during an alligator attack is struggle, make noise and create confusion, said Joy Hill, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

"Malcolm did the right thing," Hill said. "He fought the alligator and it let him go."